Attribution University

Need education around marketing attribution? We have you covered.

Written by Maggie Tharp
on July 07, 2022

Now that digital marketers (and consumers) are one year into the most recent iOS 14 data privacy updates, we can glean more information about the implications of these changes. If you want to know how to tackle modern advertising challenges while maintaining long-term brand growth, it’s important to understand the true state of direct to consumer advertising.

The good news? Rockerbox makes it easy to visualize and understand how iOS and other important changes affect your role as a marketer. In this post, we’ll cover some of the most important topics related to marketing and advertising in a post-iOS 14 world. You’ll learn:

  • The true context of iOS 14 privacy updates (and corresponding effects on DTC marketers)
  • The current state and outlook of top platforms, such as Facebook and Google, and how marketers perceive them or attribute success to them
  • Predictions for the future of digital advertising and indicators for new and emerging platforms

But first, we’ll take a look at what makes marketing attribution unique and valuable.

Rockerbox Marketing Attribution

The Rockerbox platform is built on a foundation of first-party data and synthesizing multiple different data sources to create a comprehensive view of marketing performance. To achieve and understand the granular results of your efforts, you need data that’s comprehensive, customizable, and always up to date. Here’s how we accomplish that.

Attribution

The cornerstone piece of the puzzle is attribution. For Rockerbox customers, this means providing information that includes:

  • Measurement of paid, organic, digital and offline channels (in one place)
  • User-level, de-deduplicated path and time to conversion
  • Single-touch, multi-touch, and model-based data sets

Experimentation

Experimentation helps answer vital questions about the campaigns you’re running and the potential roadblocks you might be facing. Having a tool like Rockerbox Experiments helps you optimize your ads for maximum performance. This includes:

  • Individual platform, campaign, and ad performance
  • Performance lift and statistical significance of tests
  • A/B testing, geo-variance tests, and more

Better Together

Although attribution and experimentation are powerful in their own right, combining such insights into one streamlined platform is the right answer for effective ad optimization. If you want to truly future-proof your organization’s advertising efforts, you need to be able to:

  • Track all marketing performance in one user-friendly place
  • Access a comprehensive and centralized reporting system through dashboards
  • Leverage a complete set of tools to scale DTC brands, this year and beyond

The Problems We’re Solving at Rockerbox

As we observe and grow in the midst of a post-iOS 14 world, there are several key objectives that we want to help DTC brands meet. For scalability and growth, this means being able to successfully complete the following steps.

  • Fill in knowledge gaps by expanding ways to track marketing performance on the most popular platforms (including standard and offline)
  • Maximize ROI by allowing brands to allocate spend more wisely through detailed reporting on lift and impact
  • Combine methodologies and enable a more data-driven marketing organization, which can improve corporate culture and boost campaign results

Support Multiple Ad Platforms

Contemporary DTC brands look at all options when it comes to advertising. Because we know this to be true, we fully support and enable a higher level of visibility on channels like Google, Facebook, TikTok, Twitter, LinkedIn, and many more.

From a tactical perspective, this means that Rockerbox is built to support and test across dozens of highly visible advertising platforms. 

iOS 14 + ATT— What Happened and How It Affected Advertisers

Significant iOS14 changes were released in early 2021, and these updates had a huge impact on ad tracking and measurement. All at once, having clear advertising data became top of mind for marketers who had previously been accustomed to working exclusively on one or two apps, particularly Facebook and Instagram. 

If you’re not as familiar with the timeline of iOS 14 and the corresponding App Tracking Transparency, here’s a quick recap of the progression. 

Timeline and iOS Updates

  • (2017) iOS 11: Apple releases ITP (Intelligent Tracking Prevention) 
  • (2020) Safari introduces default 3rd-party cookie blocking
  • (2020) iOS 14: Introduction of ATT (App Tracking Transparency) for user tracking consent.  
  • (2021) iOS 14.5: ATT enforcement and removal of IDFA (Identifier for Advertisers) without user consent.  

The Outcome–Advertising Disruption

With limited tracking ability in a post-iOS 14 world, brands lost access to the same level of targeting and optimization capabilities that they’d enjoyed previously in platforms like Facebook and Instagram. Coincidentally, when brands started to see their advertising numbers drop, they exited Facebook for other platforms. 

Impact on Facebook Spend

Clearly, with advertisers slightly more cautious about Facebook performance, the percentage of Facebook ad spending took a dip. According to Insider Intelligence, “Facebook’s share of US DTC ad spending declined from 34.9% in January–March 2021 to 27.0% a year later, according to a Rockerbox report.

Not Exclusive to Facebook

Other platforms were also affected by the iOS 14 changes and Facebook’s related performance changes. It’s important to note that the true state of DTC advertising must also take into account future outlook for other top advertising channels, including:

  • Instagram
  • Google
  • TikTok 
  • New advertising players (offline, etc.)

The Current State and Outlook of Top Platforms

Currently, brands of all sizes and varieties are looking for ways to explore advertising options. Many brands continue to spend millions each month on large scale ad campaigns to attract and convert new customers. Even as the popularity for specific platforms changes, this truth of the power of DTC advertising holds steady.

Facebook: Favored to Unpredictable

Rockerbox CEO Ron Jacobson shares what many in the industry have come to accept as truth—prior to iOS 14, Facebook was the “golden goose” in the advertising realm. This begs the question of why Facebook was so popular before iOS 14. Here’s what we know:

  • To put it simply, Facebook advertising actually worked
  • It’s always been easy to use and scale for marketers, brands, and advertisers
  • There’s a highly efficient loop—performance to optimization
  • It’s excellent for small brands with limited team and budget

Instability Prior to iOS 

Although iOS 14 was the nail in the coffin for Facebook advertising performance, it was certainly not the first issue. There were some red flags prior to the most recent changes, which included:

  • (2018) iOS 12: ITP — Intelligent Tracking Prevention 
  • Data delays – 24/48/72 hours
  • Facebook’s remediation attempts, which only added additional uncertainty

How Advertisers View the Facebook Platform

When Facebook performs worse (as it started to when iOS 14 and previous changes took effect), advertisers generally decrease spend and shift to other channels. However, the type of customer matters when making this adjustment. For example, businesses and brands that invested more money in Facebook pre-iOS 14 were directly affected in a larger capacity.

Google is Now Stronger Than Ever

When Facebook began to lose out on advertiser spend, Google picked up some of the slack. Today’s advertisers love and favor Google because:

  • It’s easy to see the value in it
  • There’s quick path to conversion 
  • Google continues to release new products and improvements
  • These improvements (like Performance Max) help marketers perform better and accomplish more

Google: Spend Changes (Pre-iOS Shift to Date)

To support the notion that advertisers began flocking to Google, take a look at the percentage increases across all brand sizes, according to Rockerbox data obtained this past year.

  • All Brands: 39%→40%
  • Large Brands: 39%→40%
  • Medium Brands: 37%→41%
  • Small Brands: 27%→39%

New Players: TikTok, Snapchat, and Offline Channels

The instability of Facebook meant marketers were more willing to expand into newer or less-proven channels, including options like:

  • TikTok
  • Snapchat
  • Offline (Direct Mail, linear TV — traditionally “harder-to-track” channels)

TikTok Continues to Be a Strong, Emerging Trend

Advertising spend on TikTok is still minimal compared to other established channels like Google, but it’s growing quickly (.2% to 2% in last year—a ten-fold increase).

There are, however, some weaknesses of TikTok, which seasoned advertisers will be quick to acknowledge. These include:

  • Walled garden (results in limited tracking capabilities) 
  • Big time and resource investment
  • Urgency to produce creatives and assets that remain relevant to the audience

Offline: Spend Changes (Pre-iOS Shift to Date)

Rockerbox data shows that in offline platforms, DTC brand spending has generally increased across the board. Check out this breakdown based on brand size: 

  • All Brands: 12%→15%
  • Large Brands: 14%→18%
  • Medium Brands: 11%→10%
  • Small Brands: 2%→3%

Looking Forward—Predictions for the Future of Advertising

Brands and advertisers should continue to do their homework and be on the lookout for important product and software updates that could change ad optimization at the drop of a hat. Even though technology roadmaps make it easier to see what’s coming (and how it could affect business), diligence and willingness to improve are both important qualities on the road to ad success.

Facebook Makes a Comeback (For Some Brands)

Now, what we’re observing is a slight resurgence of Facebook, particularly among smaller brands that are re-entering familiar territory. Advertisers are returning to what they’re comfortable with, despite known quirks or faults.

At times, the difficulty of learning new platforms beats the hardship of dealing with Facebook’s unpredictability. While that’s the case, different channels may regularly perform best for different brands. For small brands, managing multiple ad platforms and accounts (Snapchat, Google, direct mail, etc.) is both time-consuming and cost-prohibitive.

Bottom Line: Marketers Need Data

At the end of the day, marketers need real data to make smarter spending decisions. If Facebook continues to underperform, advertisers will be forced to invest in other platforms (existing and new players). 

In today’s DTC economy, Facebook is fighting to remain relevant, but that doesn’t mean that advertisers shouldn’t capitalize on the latest trends, platforms, and analytics. 

Reclaim Your Advertising Spend with Smart Decisions

Rockerbox provides first party measurement for DTC brands and businesses that want to have better access to attribution data. Plus, Rockerbox makes it easy to analyze and experiment with the purpose of spending smarter. Let’s get started!

Schedule Your Free Rockerbox Demo

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